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Stanford Report, April 14, 1999

Teresa Riseborough: Amy J. Blue Award winner


Photo by Linda Cicero

A couple of Escondido Village newlyweds are sleeping better because of Teresa Riseborough.

After two years of being denied a good night's rest because of an uncomfortable bed, graduate student Todd Neller learned that housing policy prohibited its removal. So he took his grievance to Riseborough, then Escondido's facilities supervisor.

Riseborough, revered by colleagues for her resourcefulness, found a way around the red tape, and a new bed was delivered to the groggy couple. "We've slept so well since," Neller said, adding, "She has the energy to make things happen and the generous, loving heart to infuse those happenings with deep goodness."

Currently the facilities supervisor for Lagunita Court, Governor's Corner and Lyman Graduate Residences, Riseborough is responsible for care and maintenance of the buildings. She interacts with students and staff, such as custodians, who will execute the work. She initiates any work to be done in structures within her jurisdiction. Since her 1982 arrival at Stanford, she has moved seven times but held the same job title.

Take a two-minute walk with her and your conversation will be punctuated with rings from her cellular telephone, or with a spontaneous visit from a facilities worker who recognizes her as he drives by in a truck.

Such workplace images are a far cry from the future Riseborough looked ahead to while in medical school in her native Poland. She postponed her medical career to marry a British physicist and never realized her goal of becoming a soft-tissue surgeon (one who works on abdominal areas).

When the couple moved to England Riseborough launched her career in institutional management. While working as a nurse in a private patient ward she "very quickly" began talking with the unions and became involved in management issues.

"I discovered I didn't need to be a doctor to help people," she said.

Riseborough and her colleagues acknowledge that she can be hard on the 12 staff members she supervises, and hard on herself. But she's also described as "fair" in her dealings.

Up until the deadline closed for the Amy J. Blue Awards competition, Riseborough was campaigning with zeal for a colleague she nominated. She was elated when she was notified he was a finalist. "I wanted him to get it," she recalled, never realizing she was a frontrunner herself.

And she said she was "humbled" upon learning she was a winner. "It made worthwhile all the nights, all those weekends, all those fights with managers over money."

Riseborough insists the main reason she was nominated for the honor is because she is so visible, that other very deserving staff members who do outstanding jobs aren't in the limelight. She claims the award on their behalf as well.

In 1988 she was one of six people (from a pool of 500) who received the Administrative Services and Facilities Award for Excellence.

Riseborough, now remarried, lives in Los Altos. She has a grown son and a 12-year-old boy. Her 89-year-old mother, a former journalist and university professor in Poland, shares her home. Her brother, Zbigniew Stanczyk, works in the Eastern European archives of the Hoover Institution. SR